Uniondale show choir competes in NYC

Uniondale High School started a show choir group just a year and a half ago, but they're on their way to a national championship at Lincoln Center on Saturday. They'll be performing songs by Michael Jackson, James Brown, Beyonc and others at the dance, act and make three costume changes in 20 minutes. They are the only team from New York State to make the competition. Videojournalist: Jessica Rotkiewicz (March 14, 2012)

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Just a year and half after its birth, Uniondale High School's show choir is bound for a national championship series at Lincoln Center Saturday.

Of the 18 teams competing, Uniondale's show choir is the sole New York entry. The choir will perform songs by Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and James Brown -- singing, dancing and acting in a high-energy, 20-minute Broadway show-style medley.

"To be part of something like this is absolutely amazing. To do this at Lincoln Center is going to be great," said Lynnette Carr-Hicks, a Uniondale music and drama teacher who once had a lead role in a Broadway production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

The competition is being run by Arizona-based Fame Events, and is one of several nationwide qualifying events that wraps up with an April 20-21 national championship in Chicago, said Joel Biggs, Fame's president.

"It's really quite an accomplishment the group [from Uniondale] is even participating at this level," he said. "It's highly competitive."

The event's producer, Bert Johnson, said the California team that will compete Saturday has appeared on "Oprah" and "Dancing With the Stars."

Show choirs can perform just about any type of music, from traditional Broadway tunes to current pop music, Biggs said. The groups sing live on stage with their own band and, in the case of Uniondale, will go through three costume changes. The choir has 56 members, mostly freshmen and sophomores.

Carr-Hicks said she started the group with 15 students in September 2010, but the choir's popularity is now causing her to turn away students.

The group usually practices twice a week for 3 1/2 hours each session, but since late February has practiced five days a week from 2:30 until at least 8 p.m.

"It's a blessing to be able to compete in something this big," said Cary Lamb, 16, a junior, who is choir president. "I really think we could win this thing. We're not just going to be another team. We're going to be a team that needs to be beat."

He said some of the newer choir members were a bit nervous about the competition, but were settling down. The choir qualified for the event by sending a video of its performance to Fame Events.

Carr-Hicks, 42, who played the lead role of Muzzie in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" on Broadway and in a U.S. and European tour when she was in her 20s, said the theme of Uniondale's show will be a "tribute to great performers."

She said the action will be intense -- they have just 30 minutes to set up their stage and props, perform their 20-minute medley, and then clear off the stage. She said the group has gotten its setup down to five minutes, and hopes to shave a little more time off.

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